PHOENIX, Ariz. – For the fourth straight year, it was a clash of the Minnesota Lynx (No. 1) and the Phoenix Mercury (No. 8) in Game 3 (Oct. 2) of the WNBA Semifinals. Phoenix – a much different team at home – looked to stay perfect in Sunday home games while Minnesota aimed for the sweep to propel them into the WNBA Finals for the second consecutive season. By a final score of 82-67, Head Coach Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx now turn their attention to a 2016 WNBA Title.
“I thought Phoenix fans were outstanding today,” Reeve said. “That’s what it’s all about. The first quarter went exactly as we thought it would, they were really turned up, but we actually hung in there and stuck to our identity the whole game.”
“It was a tough series,” Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus said. “We played against great players and obviously Diana Taurasi had her way against us throughout the series. But as the course of the five games went on, we just got better. Today was another day we felt like we improved on both ends of the floor.”
In less than six minutes from the tip, Maya Moore found herself on the bench with two fouls. The Mercury took full advantage of Minnesota missing its most prized possession in Moore, leading 23-18 at the end of the first quarter. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner combined for 15 of those 23 points while Lindsay Whalen stepped up for the Lynx tallying six first period points.
After two and a half minutes into the second quarter, with Moore back on the floor, the Lynx jumped out in front 24-23 to force a Mercury timeout. Minnesota remained in the driver’s seat for much of the second quarter, but fouls, 8 first half turnovers and, well, Taurasi, allowed Phoenix to stay within striking distance.
These factors eventually caught up with the Lynx after Penny Taylor – in her final came for Phoenix – tied it up 34-34 with two minutes left in the half.
At halftime, Whalen and Taurasi led all scorers with 11 points each for the opposing squads, but Minnesota went into halftime with a 39-38 lead. Moore had just six points through 20 minutes – over 20 away from her postseason average of 28.5.
She still had plenty of help behind her, however, as the Lynx forced another Mercury timeout to open the third period with a 47-39 lead. With 7:14 to go, the Lynx were shooting a blistering 51.3 percent to Phoenix’s 34.3 percent.
With a 10-point lead midway through period three, 53-43, Minnesota’s confidence continued to skyrocket. Natasha Howard added a quiet 14 points through 30 minutes – eight of them in the third quarter alone. Moore, of course, came alive as well to lead all scorers at the end of three with 15 points and six rebounds.
Phoenix tried to claw their way out of a 12-point deficit in the final quarter, but the Lynx were too much to handle in the final 10 minutes as they stretched their lead to a commanding 21 points with less than six minutes to play.
Moore finished with 17 points and six rebounds, while Howard chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds and Whalen added 11 points and five assists. With today’s win, Minnesota improved to a perfect 6-0 against Phoenix this season.